EAST BEND — Narrow victories propelled the North Surry baseball team to a Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title last season, but the Greyhounds haven’t experienced the same fortune in tight contests this season.
On Thursday, North Surry dropped a 2-1 decision to Forbush and fell to 11-6 and 2-3 in league play. The Falcons are in first place with a 4-1 record in the WPAC after handing the Hounds their third loss in the last four games, each coming by two runs or less.
“We knew this year was going to be tough. We had a lot of one-run wins last year, and we came into the season with a target on our backs after the deep run in the playoffs,” Martin said.
“But we’re going to find a way to fight through this. Our team is going to be a team, stay bonded together, and we’ll be okay.”
It was a strange game for the North Surry offense. Despite only scoring one run, the Hounds felt like they had success against Forbush pitcher Jack Crews, only to see most of their hard-hit balls find a Falcon glove.
A microcosm of the North Surry struggles came in the top of the seventh. Facing a 2-1 deficit, Jacob McHone led off the inning with a walk. Colton Acord came on as a pinch runner and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Reid Stanley.
Chase Chandler came to bat and fell behind 0-2, but North Surry’s starting pitcher laced a swerving line drive into left field. It looked destined to drop in for a game-tying base hit, but Garrett Brickey made a diving grab to his right. Kobe Slate was the next batter and struck out to end the game.
“The kid (Brickey) made a great play,” Martin said. “We could have tied the game and had the meat of our lineup coming up to bat. Instead, it was just the second out, and it was a big one.”
The diving grab made sure Crews earned the victory on Thursday. The crafty left-hander didn’t overpower North Surry, but he controlled his fastball and became more comfortable throwing a slow curveball as the game wore on. He struck out six Greyhound batters.
“(Crews) got settled in and found some rhythm. He started to gain some confidence when he got off to a good start,” Martin said.
Crews out-dueled Chandler on Thursday. The Greyhound righty pitched six innings and gave up just one earned run. The Forbush bats made him work, though, and Chandler only recorded six strikeouts.
North Surry dug itself an early hole and fell behind 1-0 after the first inning. A single and walk with one out put runners on first and second, and a run came around to score thanks to a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Forbush doubled its lead in the third on an RBI single from Crews. It was one of the only mistakes of the evening from Chandler, who left a two-strike fastball at the belt that Crews pulled into right field.
North Surry got its lone run of the evening in the top of fifth. With two outs, Chandler reached base on an error and Slate singled into right field. With two on, Kendal Tucker ripped a double into the left center field gap. Chandler scored and Slate pulled into third.
The Greyhounds couldn’t capitalize on this opportunity. Brady Watts nearly legged out an infield single to score Slate, but a bang-bang play resulted in the first base umpire calling Watts out. Martin argued the call to no avail.
North Surry seemingly faces a must-win game on Friday if it wants to repeat as WPAC champions. The Greyhounds will host Forbush, and they can claw to within one game of first place with the win.
“We’re so late in the season now that we’re not a young team anymore,” Coach Martin said. “I’m fully confident in our guys to rise to the challenge as it continues to wind down.”
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16